Sport and race relations in American society

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12 Scopus citations


This paper examines contemporary patterns of American race relations as they are mirrored in the social institution of sport. Specifically, the National Football League is used as a case example to illustrate how subtle, systemic, and institutional barriers continue to block equal employment opportunities for Blacks, even in sectors of society which are putatively free of racial discrimination. This paper is comprised of three parts. Part one reviews the accumulated evidence on racial discrimination in sports and reveals that although Black players’performances have in the last two decades become increasingly pre-eminent in baseball, basketball and football, they have made few inroads into professional sports management either on or off the playing fields. Part two uses multiple regression and path analysis to compute estimates of (1) the relative influence of race versus other relevant characteristicseducation, leadership ability, professional accomplishments— on the player to coach transition; and (2) the proportion of Black players which, all else being equal (at least in terms of the present model of managerial recruitment), might have been selected as either head or assistant coaches in the National Football League, if race were not a factor in the selection process. Part three discusses the implications of this study for public policy regarding equal employment opportunities and for research on inequality and race relations in American society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-76
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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